It is not a secret that built environment influence immensely our behaviour, actions and perceptions. The question is rather, to what extent – whether the architecture can make people better neighbours, more responsible citizens, or happier urban dwellers. History is penetrated by understanding of power of architecture – from Gothic churches to Bauhaus residential estates – buildings has been always intended to influence our feelings and desires. And when it was not stated openly, it was always hidden behind design and plan – both of which expressed architects’ subjective understanding of what is better for human beings.
One of the examples of such building is Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse in Marseille. This almost self-sustaining housing unit, distributing services and satisfying needs of its inhabitants, showcases Le Corbusier’s belief in the possibility to construct an ideal social environment. May sound mad, but it works. Since 1952 and till today. Moreover, it works despite a complete collapse of other housing units, inspired by the success of Cité Radieuse. The bright example of such failure is a Park Hill housing estate in Sheffield, UK. Having been completed in 1961, it degraded gradually to the state when the local government couldn’t find enough tenants. Now the huge unit is being renovated, hoping for a new life.
So, let’s investigate, why do some housing estates, symbolizing the very core beliefs of the brutalist movement, go into decay, while Unité d’habitation is still working and even bathing in its glory?
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